Even though it’s officially a good two weeks away, as soon as the calendar page flips over to September I can’t help but start thinking FALL. I can’t wait to revel in bushels of the season’s best fruit – apples, hands down!
There are so many varieties now, as a layperson I’d think the apple industry doesn’t have to go out of its way to invent more. However, a team out of Ohio State University begs to differ; not only proposing brand new apple types entirely but automating the process – through the power of science.
Their new analysis platform purports to take years, if not decades, off the traditional apple hybridization process. By using the platform as a drawing board, combining genetic traits affecting sugar levels, acids, and antioxidants, researchers can eventually predict what the offspring fruits will be like without the time investment of real-world breeding. Using this tool, the team hopes to maximize the healthfulness of the humble apple, while keeping flavour, yield, and hardiness in mind too.
There is some hard “core” (pun intended!) science at play here!
“Genome-wide analysis of each apple enabled identification of genetic markers associated with metabolites that influence traits like flavor, disease resistance and texture. The researchers used high-resolution mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance to detect phytochemicals in the apples in a “global” way – an approach called untargeted metabolomics. […]
‘We looked for strong relationships at locations in the genome that are not well studied in apple and looked for which compounds we could identify and which had nutritional value. We could go from untargeted data all the way to finding candidate genes responsible for compound production – which researchers can then validate,’ [Ohio State assistant professor Jessica] Cooperstone said.
There are 124 different apples currently in the database, all ready to be combined into new, more nutritious apples that people will already love because, well, they’re apples! I may be biased, but a fan of apples or not, biodiversity and careful selection to ensure the future of the fruit is a good thing for us all.
Soccer fans are internationally known for being, well… fanatics, mostly for their teams or, um, let’s call it “team-related identity politics”. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the U.K., where multiple teams, playing in different leagues in each city, engage in a complex net of rivalries. Manchester, for example, has seven professional clubs – one of which is taking on a delicious environmental challenge.
Etihad Stadium (home of the Manchester City team), is piloting a sustainable cup program at their concessions stands this season. They are serving coffee, tea, and hot cocoa in compressed wafer tumblers that (in a reverse cookie-dunking move!) are made to be eaten once the drink is finished.
“The concept of the cup is much like an ice-cream cone. Hot contents are served in 220-milliliter (7.4 fluid ounce) wafer ‘cups,’ made of seven natural, vegan ingredients, chiefly wheat flour, oat bran, and water. They’re able to withstand high temperatures (of up to 85 degrees Celsius or 185 degrees Fahrenheit), due to a pressure heat treatment process; they don’t contain any sugar, wax, or artificial coatings.
Filled with hot liquid, the wafer stays leak-proof for up to 12 hours, and crispy for up to 45 minutes – the duration, conveniently, of one half of a soccer game. The bottom half of the cups are wrapped in a paper label, which is both recycled and recyclable, for easier gripping; and to ensure that the bottom of the biscuit doesn’t touch any surfaces. They’re designed to taste like a thin cookie dunked in a cup of coffee, and contain approximately 100 calories per cup.”
Scottish company BioBite (which was founded two years ago by a pair of University of Aberdeen students) are the innovators behind the cookie cups. The founders hope their invention will help eliminate a whole category of single-use paper products that currently plague public noshing. The Manchester trial also includes unwaxed, sustainable paper cups for beer sales – And thankfully so: I know I’d be thrilled to do my environmental bit by eating a cookie, but not one soaked in beer! If this innovation takes off, we may see it over here, and then I can try one and see.